Emerging from mid-life invisibility

Years ago something apparently insignificant happened to me. Since I’ve been thinking about it on and off for years, perhaps it wasn’t so insignificant after all.

I have some thoughts.

I am, after all, a writer and this is a blog and I like to hurl words about my thoughts out into the internet. πŸ™‚

I remember the circumstances very clearly. It was about 5 or 6 years ago and I was in the Sobey’s parking lot. (Sobey’s is a major grocery chain in Canada, known by other names as well.)

It was hot (summer) so I wasn’t wearing heavy clothing that sheltered every part of me from the elements.

At the time, my general disposition was dejected, blue, unmotivated. We were either seriously considering a renovation (to prevent a move) or just coming out of a renovation (can’t remember exactly). I was depressed most days and extremely introverted and somewhat anti-social. (This doesn’t mean I was unfriendly when out among people, I just didn’t seek out socializing.)

I was in my 40s, a busy stay-at-home-work-part-time-occasionally mom of two sporty, noisy kids, living in a house I hated and desperately seeking a purpose in life that went beyond mothering and wife-ing.

So there I was, grocery shopping. I didn’t have the kids with me so it must have been a school day.

The way I usually walk toward a chore such as shopping is either with a look of determination on my face (looking straight ahead at my target, with thoughts about how to get this done as quickly and painlessly with the least amount of spending as possible), or by looking down.

God knows I didn’t want anyone to talk to me.

I probably didn’t dress any different than usual. What I choose to wear in the morning I wear all day. I may change shoes (from crocks or nothing to something that’s comfortable, but flat) but essentially I’m in athletic wear with my hair down or in a pony tail and minimal makeup (just mascara, usually).

Anyway, as I’m walking I notice this guy heading toward me. I briefly looked up to avoid bumping into him.

That’s when I noticed how he was looking at me.

He was appraising me.

What I mean is, he looked up and gave me the kind of look that men give women when they appraise someone they find attractive.

I remember thinking, oh, wow, I can’t believe someone is noticing me.

I remember thinking, has this happened before and I didn’t notice?

I remember thinking, what the hell am I wearing?

The way he did it was by starting at the bottom (my shoes?), traveling upwards, lingering in all the usual places, and ending at my face.

He took his time looking.

I remember thinking, do men still find me attractive?

I was so introverted and self-absorbed with all my problems at the time that I didn’t really even consider that possibility.

Note: I’m not interested in inviting cattle calls, whistles, or lewd comments.

I’m not looking for pity or compliments or praise. ( Genuine comments are of course acceptable. πŸ™‚ )

I’m simply illustrating that for the first time in a long while, someone outside of my little circle of peeps noticed me as an attractive person. Someone who stopped for a moment to take a look.

I was trying to understand how this made me feel at a time when I felt more invisible than ever before. How some random person noticed me in a way my everyday peeps didn’t.

Does this make sense?

It clicked something in my brain. It made me take notice again of my physical appearance, and how I present myself. It made me think for a minute that by walking around looking down and avoiding people, it wasn’t going to change my life for the better.

But then, just as I was preparing to give him a smile, something counter-intuitive happened.

When the man’s glances reached my face (which was partially hidden behind sunglasses) he suddenly, and quickly, looked away.

His body language gave me the impression he liked what he saw until he saw my face. Either because my face gave away the fact that I wasn’t dripping with youth (anymore), or because my expression wasn’t particularly happy.

My assumption here is that he realized the face atop the body didn’t match his expectation, so he looked away.

I keep running this situation over in my head.

What was it that made him turn away? Was it the fact that I didn’t have a happy disposition emanating from me?

Was it because he expected to see a bouncy 25 year old and instead got a tired-looking 40-something year old?

Since that day I admit to spending a little longer looking in the mirror before I head out. At the very least, I try to put my negative thoughts out of my head while I’m out in public. No one wants to mingle with sad or angry people, and really, a smile might make a difference in someone’s life.

I think maybe it’s working. At least the ‘leaving negativity behind’ part of it. (Maybe. I don’t admit to smiling every day, but I at least don’t carry my load of troubles around with me quite as obviously.)

Sometimes (not often) someone will say something to me. In line at a store one day, a woman remarked something nice about a top I was wearing. A person walking their dog approached me to make small talk about the dog I was walking, something that didn’t used to happen. A man behind me in line at the hardware store offered to give the cashier the nickle I was missing (avoiding me having a pocket full of loose change). Occasionally, I see someone turning to watch me walk by (male or female) either because they like something I’m wearing or because of some other reason that may elude me forever.

Maybe it’s working a little bit. πŸ™‚

Incidentally, just the other day a similar situation happened, only this time, I noticed (and acknowledged) the look. I was just coming out of the wine store when I saw a police car parked right outside the doors. One cop was standing next to a homeless woman sitting on the ground in a parking spot, and the other cop was inside the police car with the windows rolled down.

They both looked at me when I exited the store. Both looked at me longer (I thought) than would have been necessary to determine whether I was a lunatic or a drunk. πŸ™„ lol

Both appraised me similarly as the random grocery guy did a few years ago, except, in their case, they did it more… what’s the word, inconspicuously.

They weren’t obvious, if you know what I mean.

It didn’t make me uncomfortable, but rather, it made me feel less invisible.

Point is, I recognized the look. And it actually made me feel good. It didn’t mean much, but it meant something.

So, instead of looking down or ignoring them, I looked directly at them and smiled.

They smiled back.

Maybe I’m finally learning how to be social. Or normal.

Maybe there is hope for me after all. πŸ™‚

I do sort of know how to smile. Maybe I should do it more often.. πŸ™‚

Tell me, do you make eye contact with people in public? Do you smile at people? Have you encountered a situation that is similar as this one or am I just an odd ball? πŸ˜‰

Epilogue

As I re-read this post before publishing I realized something. Some people may think I give the impression that the opinions of other people, including random people we don’t even know, count toward our self-worth more than what our immediate circle of family and friends think. Or what we think of ourselves. This was not my intention.

However, as a SAHM for most of my 40s and an especially introverted, borderline clinically depressed one, I had little contact with the outside world, and even less social opportunities. I wasn’t a happy person for a variety of reasons, and endlessly searching for ways to get beyond the fog I was living in. I was feeling invisible and underappreciated much of the time.

When this situation with the guy in the parking lot happened I didn’t know how to deal with it initially. But after reflecting for years, I thought it was time to write about it. I want to understand what I went through, process it, and let it go. I want to turn a page and enter a new decade with a healthier perspective, especially since I’m also raising teenagers, one of whom is a girl.

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41 thoughts on “Emerging from mid-life invisibility

  1. hi claudette, i really enjoyed reading this. i love that you write with your heart so completely open. AND you’re also an excellent storyteller, so it makes reading here fun. i know i don’t do much mingling on other blogs, but i do try to poke my head in here sometimes, even if i don’t always make myself known. you’ve been spreading your writing wings more, i see. your blog looks and sounds great! thanks for sharing yourself with the blog world! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Claudette, I’m sorry you have felt invisible. I’m glad you don’t anymore 😊 but I know someone who sees you all the time. He loves you no matter what, and you are very important to him. You mentioned in the beginning of your post that you are looking for a meaning in life. Well, I promise, ever since I began a relationship with him, my life has a purpose and I have hope. If you’re interested (I’m only trying to help!) please check out this short video that explains more. Just know that God loves you all the time. ❀
    https://youtu.be/2IYmodFKDaM

    Like

  3. Pingback: BETWEEN – STEVE
  4. Well, I can’t answer for him – but if I were checking you out and then realized you saw me, I’d be embarrassed and look away. So it’s certainly not your face. I’d probably feign being partially blind. “Take a picture, it will last longer!” me:”What? Is someone there??”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. About a year after my divorce, when OC was still under 2 years old, I remember going to the gas station and getting cat called and whistled at by a couple of guys coming out. Now, I’m really not a fan of this behavior. AT ALL. But in that moment, I really kind of needed it. After the ugliness of a divorce and trying to overcome the mess of self doubt and damage to my self esteem that whole disaster left me with, I needed to feel that bit of being noticed as a woman, as someone worthy of being noticed. It did a lot for me at the time and helped me get a little bit of that traction I needed to move forward even if it wasn’t the most healthy way of getting to that point.

    I have had lots of moments over the course of time I’ve been wife and mother that I’ve desperately needed to feel like something more than just those things. It wasn’t all about how I looked, but more about how I felt. I think it is even harder to get those moments when you are a shy introvert that struggles to actively socialize unless shoved into those situations, so every little bit that pushes us towards that moments are a huge deal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts. A lot of people who commented apparently have felt this way, but struggled to find the words to express how they felt, either to themselves or to others.
      It’s interesting, the cat calls and whistles, etc. It’s tough today as inviting it or liking them is counterproductive to what the feminist movement, or the women’s movement is all about. At the same time, getting noticed (but without the crude commentary or whatever) might give someone that little bit of a boost in their self-esteem.

      Some men have commented on this blog too which is interesting. There are shy and introverted men who might notice an attractive person walking by them and they might inadvertently look up to look closer. But it’s hard today for them too. How will she react if he looks at her longer or with a certain expression on their face? Will she like it, be offended, make a scene, call him a name?

      All I know is that at that moment I first felt attractive, or the possibility of being attractive (again) until he looked away at which point a million possibilities surfaced: he doesn’t like my face, he is disappointed in my expression, I’m ugly and not worthy, or…as Paul pointed out, he didn’t mean to look but then he did and felt ‘caught’ when I saw him and made eye contact.

      It’s just all so very confusing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d guess the guy was just on the shy side and wasn’t comfortable with eye contact or being caught checking you out. I am horrible at eye contact and do pretty much everything I can to not make it, even sub-consciously. My hubby isn’t nearly as bad as I am, but he is on the shy side, so would have fallen into that really uncomfortable being caught category.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. When the man’s glances reached my face (which was partially hidden behind sunglasses) he suddenly, and quickly, looked away.

    His body language gave me the impression he liked what he saw until he saw my face. Either because my face gave away the fact that I wasn’t dripping with youth (anymore), or because my expression wasn’t particularly happy.

    It’s also possible that he suddenly realised that you’d noticed him looking and didn’t know how to react.

    I generally don’t make eye contact with people in public. On the rare occasion that someone smiles at me, I will smile back but, unless I am at some social function where I feel expected to make an effort, I will tend to keep myself to myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hm. Yes. That had occurred to me too. He seemed younger than me…looking and getting caught isn’t something everyone knows how to deal with.

      It’s so hard these days… πŸ™‚

      Thank you Paul for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this and can SO relate. I’ve always felt a certain sense of shame thinking that I was needing whatever external validation a man’s gaze gives me, but you explain it all so well. It’s not completely about that. I have felt very invisible since having children. You’ve inspired me to smile more now too. Smiles aren’t invisible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting K. Those early years are so time consuming and all about them, it takes genuine effort and energy to spend a little quality time with or on ourselves. I remember well. Being a little bit aware and helping others to do the same is the aim here. I’m happy to realize through this post that I was not, am not, alone. ❀

      Like

  8. I am a person who laughs easily, remembers jokes, and is comfortable chatting. I am past considering myself attractive as i am 60. Take it as a compliment you were checked out, I am sure you take of yourself and he looked away because he felt self conscious.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. At 60 you turn invisible! Trust me, it happens! It’s even worse at 80 or 90. I find now that I’m retired and interact less with fewer people on a daily basis, it’s easy to be withdrawn esp if you are an introvert and much harder to rev up the energy to be sociable or smile and make chit-chat. It was an interesting post. I’m mulling it over…..

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? We introverts are sometimes tripping through life in our own world, in la la land, not aware of others around us…but sometimes actually looking, and seeing, someone could lift spirits. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I grew up noticing other human bodies much the same way I notice front yards and patios. But for me, any more than 500 milliseconds of eye-lock is like peeping through someone’s window to initiate a Vulcan Mind Meld. They probably just left the curtains open to let the light shine in, but not me.

        Body language is oblique and unobtrusive compared to the intimacy of eye-to-eye contact.

        My hearing impairment forces me to watch people’s bodies and faces closely, but I do eyes sparingly. Is it just me?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Sometimes people’s attention is not wanted. I was thinking this the other day while walking the dogs and seeing someone leering at me or was it the big dog pulling me or yanking my chain? There are a lot of weirdos out there. Mostly in the gym, the guys look at themselves. It is hard to speak with people present day but in the past it was much easier.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know what you mean but I think I have enough life experience to tell apart leering and just looking. The man wasn’t leering but clearly he thought I was something else when he took in the whole picture ( probably a much younger girl). πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience in such a thoughtful way. I am so impressed by the way you used your brain and acted on your insights. It’s great! I bet it was hard, that first smile. But this new awareness and momentous act opened you up to the world, and to people who see you. I know this happened a while ago but welcome back to the world, Claudette. We need you.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I think it says quite a lot that you are becoming more self-aware of your behaviors and responses to others- strangers in particular. I’m not sure anyone can really define “normal” these days either, given everything society throws at us and appropriate versus inappropriate responses. Social behavior is so subjective in so many ways based upon many factors. As long as you feel comfortable, folks aren’t creepy or weird or objectionable or just downright sexist in their attention, and you feel good about interacting on whatever level seems right then all is good. You can only control you and I think sometimes instinct is important as well when it comes to the level of response you may or may not want to give.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I worry about all of this for the kids. At least for me, I have life experience helping along with gut instinct. It’s much tougher to figure out what is meant by someone’s actions when you’re young and inexperienced.

      You’re right, today’s society is tough to navigate. Thank you for contributing your thoughts.

      Like

  12. Claudette! You’re a very attractive woman! Anyone can see that. Being at home with kids for a long time sets your attention with children, partner, domestic things that you need to do to keep things ticking over. You haven’t exactly time to be noticing what is going on ‘out there’. On top of that you are a very introverted person and prone to deep thinking. I’ve just written a post about someone thinking I was sociable when I’m not. I wrote that, went down town on the bus – chatted away like a lunatic to someone on the bus – after having said I was going to stop doing that – I can understand where you are. React as you find yourself reacting (I could be giving myself advice). But look after yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Chatted like a lunatic”? Lol… I saw your post. πŸ™‚

      When I’m in the mood I can certainly give the impression of being the opposite of introverted. πŸ™‚

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad I wrote it out.

      Like

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